Orthodox Eschatology and the Problem of Putin

In a fascinating article by Vladimir Moss, we have a capable discussion of the Orthodox political theorist Alexander Dugin, particularly his relation to Vladimir Putin. Moss’s article is important because it is written by a conservative Orthodox scholar who hates globalism, modernist Orthodoxy, yet has suspicions about Putin’s conservative Christianity. Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his twice-humiliating Obama (e.g., Syria and Ukraine) have forced conservatives to reevaluate their Russophobia and the future of international conservative thought.

I want to build upon Moss’s analysis, with which I mostly agree. My goal is to show tensions in Russian history that Moss doesn’t note and ponder the implications for Orthodox engagement today.

Who is Dugin?

Back in my Russophilic days I was watching Dugin’s career really take off.  Dugin had abandoned the National Bolshevism Party (!!) and started his own Party.  Eventually, he saw that Russia’s future was with Putin and cast his lot there.  My Orthodox friends were emailing me pdfs of Dugin’s books long before they were in print.  I was leaving any form of Orthodoxy at that point so I really wasn’t interested.

Leaving aside Dugin’s own political views, Moss highlights his “eschatological ecclesiology.”  Moss rightly notes that Dugin’s views cannot be understood apart from his Old Ritualist beliefs.  The Old Ritualists separated from the Moscow Patriarch NIKON in the 1660s because they saw Nikon modifying the liturgy (and they were correct–this has huge and embarrassing implications for semper ubique and an always united church).

Old Ritualists see the world as corrupt and expect a future, purifying catastrophe (a common theme among many Christian sects), even sacrificing themselves in the fire.  I hope you make the connection between their own suicidal deaths by fire and Dugin’s call for nuclear war.  It is not accidental.

Dugin’s own analysis of Revelation is bizarre (yet no more arbitrary and subjective than Reformed amillennialism) and while entertaining, largely beyond the scope of this essay. However, it does break down Christian history into three phases: Pre-Constantinian, Constantinian (and later Muscovite) and post-1660 Muscovite.  The middle period is the Millennial Reign and the Third Period is the Age of Antichrist.  This means, as Moss notes, that little good can be seen in the post-1660 Orthodox Church (which argument by the Old Ritualists is one reason I never joined).

Dugin’s analysis is strained when he comes to the Soviet era.  He can’t simply defend it because of its atheism, but he does give it moderate praise.  He sees God’s exercising a strange power through the Soviet world, but that doesn’t bother Dugin since he’s already identified America as the Antichrist (which is odd, given his dating of 1666 as the beginning of Antichrist).

Contra Moss, Dugin is correct to note that the “spiritual conformism” of the Nikonite patriarchs is no less revolutionary than the Sovietism of the Church. With exception of Fr. Raphael Johnson, very few American Orthodox have owned up to this problem.  Dugin sees the future Philadelphian Church as a combination of the Old Ritualists, the Moscow Patriarchate, and the ROCA church.  This is problematic, to say the least, since all of these churches have condemned each other for “schisming from the true faith” (this is a huge psychological problem for convertskii).

Dugin’s eschatology allows him to see Putin in a new, monarchical role, especially in opposing America.  There are many aspects of American liberalism that should be rightly opposed, but one gets nervous in reading the nuclear overtones of Dugin’s proposal! The rest of the article is an analysis of Orthodox and Dispensationalist eschatologies, which do not concern us here.

Orthodoxy Today

So what do converts to Orthodoxy say about Dugin’s analysis?  Few likely have heard of them and that’s expected.  However, everyone in America has to face up to Putin’s Russia, whether good or bad.  Some convertskii have pointed out many goods of Putin’s Russia: it refuses to tolerate sodomy and speaks out for oppressed Christians in the Middle East, much to the anger of the Beltway Alliance.

I suspect American Orthodox will break down in several lines on this question. The hard-core convertskii will understandably praise Putin(and by extension Dugin).  They will see Russia as the last bulwark against the New World Order.  The more moderate convertskii, those perhaps enamored with Schmemann, Thomas Nelson Publishing, and Ancient Faith Radio, might find Dugin’s analysis embarrassing.  Yet he can’t simply be dismissed:  if you accept Putin as a normative figure you have to account for Dugin’s influence on him.

Is Putin King Arthur Redivivus?

I used to think he was.  I like him better than Obama, to be sure, but I do not think the future belongs to Russia, no matter if it is secular, Orthodox, or Communist.  Putin divorced his wife and has taken up with a young and attractive gymnast.  Hardly the actions of the leader of conservative Christendom. While Russia’s own situation has improved since the 1990s, it’s future is far from certain.  The abortion, suicide, divorce, and prostitution rates in Russia are abysmal.  Civilizations have been destroyed for far less (Boer Afrika had its problems, but they didn’t have the decadence of today’s Russia, either, yet they were destroyed by the Marxist torturer Nelson Mandela.  Maybe South Africa did sin.  She was formally covenanted to God).

I thought about doing a sociological analysis on Russia’s birth-rate and related variables. I used to have the info for that, but those days are long gone.  I will give a snapshot analysis:

  • While Russia’s energy reserves are formidable, she needs markets. While she has Western Europe by the balls, energetically speaking, her economy is fragile and severe enough sanctions could tip the scale.
  • Even though her birth rate has improved, much of it is from Central Asian Muslims, not white Orthodox Christians.
  • Most importantly–religiously–she does not appear to have the “want-to” to survive.  Though Bulgakov and Dostoevsky could speak in eschatological veins, Orthodox theology is more inward, mystical, and onto-focused; overcoming estrangement. I realize I am speaking in generalities, but history’s bears it out.  Where is the “Protestant” work-ethic–so famous and so maligned–among the Slavic lands?  It was the Protestant understanding of the Covenant and the law of God that allowed them dominion in Europe and the New World.
  • Finally,and I realize few will share my analysis, God doesn’t reward the worship of images.  Civilizations that are built on language and communications are healthier than those built on fetishism.

A Contrast

Even the best of civilizations fall.  If the criteria of success is longetivity, then few will last.  However, we can analyze the nature of their lasting and the religious impulses within it.

Covenanteroes

While I reject as naive those narratives that say the Covenanters produced modern republicanism, the impulses which drove the English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians did create a New World.  Jock Purves writes,

The United States of America, too, is a great result of the further development of the Reformation in the orderings of the most High.  It might have been settled by the Spanish or Portugese, and therefore, now been as South America, Romish, backward and dark. But in genius and constitution, in its strong depths and grand heights, it is a Protestant land.  This is because of a people, such a people, in moral and spiritual stature incomparable, the finest expositors of Scripture ever known, the English Puritans (42).

Whatever else you say about Protestantism, ask why all of the economic and political developments for the common good in the modern world happened in historically Protestant lands? Whenever there is a crop shortage in Russia, why does it always turn into a catastrophe?  Even under the decimating reigns of the Clintons and Obamas, America hasn’t had that.

I can only wonder what would have happened if King James I hadn’t murdered Sir Walter Raleigh at the behest of the Spanish Ambassador. Raleigh was talking of settling Latin America.

Only religion can bring life to a land.  I hope and pray that Orthodoxy in Russia stops women becoming Prostitutes and aborting their babies.  But it will take more than 10% of the population.

 

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9 comments on “Orthodox Eschatology and the Problem of Putin

  1. guy says:

    Jacob,
    Have you heard ( orthodox) Fr. Matthew Raphael Johnson on Russian Nationalism? I’ve tried to correspond with him re some of his views, but no response. The radio program and website he aired on http://reasonradionetwork.com/programs/the-orthodox-nationalist is no longer active. I’ve listened to some of his youtube lectures(?) and find him to be a very thought provoking, interesting and unpretentious in character; He speaks his mind, which is quite refreshing!! I see the Orthodox Anchoretic arguments to be logical and biblical fallacies, as well. Their Neo Platonic ( Plotinus?) accoutrements in the “garb” of any theological understanding of the REAL nature and charachter of God: Christ: If you have seen me you have seen the Father! is lost in a metaphysical/existential blah,blah,blah and “always and everywhere” blah… My blah meets your blah is still blah! Unless, of course we’re the same “blahtherers”;-) I have some personal questions that are not appropriate ( at least for me being comfortable with same) to ask here. Can you email me?

    I truly appreciate your TIME put in blogging!

    A fifty+ old neophyte Clarkian,
    guy

  2. John* says:

    Jacob

    Brilliant analysis, but can be taken further:

    The principal basis of Orthodoxy’s weak economics and poor social structures is its Byzantine Inheritance.

    The principal basis of Latin America’s (+ the Philippines’) weak economics and poor social structures is its Papal Inheritance.

    The common unifying feature for both of the above is their roots (1) politically and economically in the Pagan Roman Empire, and (2) culturally and metaphysically in Pagan Hellenism.

    The principal reasons for the largely Anglo-sphere’s success (but also extending to the Dutch) in (a) politics and economics, (b) cultural and social advancement, is a revival of (i) a Jewish consciousness, (b) the rise of philo-Semitism, and (for the British-based countries): (c) a revival of Brehon Law (via principally the Scots).

    That combination produced, more or less, the Covenant Theology as documented by Meredith Kline, and led to Protestant thrift, the Protestant work-ethic, and the elimination of a largely top-down, autonomous, autokrator, parasite-government. It also activated the Covenant-blessing of Gen 12:2,3 as amplified in Matt 25:31-46.

    Templar influence in England and Scotland was also highly useful, as they produced (1) the world-s first non-government multinational corporation, and (2) the invention of the international bill-of-credit and traveler’s cheque. It was the Templars which forced the 1215 Magna Carta, produced the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland, and forced through the various Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire in England – all of which diminished Papal-Normanism and laid the foundation for the future Protestant success. .

    The contrast between Russia could not be more complete. Once Byzantium achieved an unchallengeable monopoly and the idea of Moscow being the “third Rome” took root, Russian decline was all but guaranteed. Its congenital anti-Semitism, climaxing in Alexander III and Nicholas II – with the rise of the “Protocols” in Russia, made its demise all but certain.

    Unless Russia divests itself of all three of the above, we can have endless, but ultimately circular and unfruitful debate as to the relative merits of Putin. However, this will also mean a radical, root and branch overhaul of Russian Orthodoxy, something not yet seen on the horizon. One can only pray for the “average” Russians as they live a life of struggle in their “vale of tears”..

    Pax Vobiscum.

    • John Bugay says:

      Hi Jacob — I posted this WSJ article on “Putin the Orthodox” some time ago
      on a forum where there were some Orthodox converts. It didn’t go very well. Here was Putin back in 2007:

      Yesterday, Mr. Putin, confirming a plan to stay in power beyond his term as president, said he would become prime minister after the near certain victory of his protégé in a March presidential election. (See related article.)

      Mr. Taratukhin’s repentance reinforces what has become a pillar of Mr. Putin’s Russia: an intimate alliance between the Orthodox Church and the Kremlin reminiscent of czarist days. Rigidly hierarchical, intolerant of dissent and wary of competition, both share a vision of Russia’s future — rooted in robust nationalism and at odds with Western-style liberal democracy.

      In recent months, Orthodox priests have sprinkled holy water on a new Russian surface-to-air-missile system called Triumph and blessed a Dec. 2 parliamentary election condemned by European observers as neither free nor fair. When the Kremlin last week unveiled its plan to effectively keep Mr. Putin in charge after his time as president ends, the head of the church, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, went on TV to laud the scheme as a “great blessing for Russia.”

      “The state supports the church, and the church supports the state,” says Sergei Kovalyov, a Soviet-era human-rights activist. Three decades ago, he was locked up with Mr. Taratukhin, the wayward Siberian, at Perm-36, part of the Soviet gulag. Mr. Kovalyov remembers his former prison-mate well: Jailed for anticommunist agitation, he kept getting sent to an isolation cell after a gutsy but foolhardy effort to expose security-service snitches spying on prisoners.

      While Mr. Taratukhin and Mr. Kovalyov were in Perm-36, Mr. Putin was starting out in the KGB, which spearheaded the Soviet Union’s efforts to suppress religion. Today, Mr. Putin goes to church regularly and wears a cross. He has visited holy places in Jerusalem and a Russian monastery on Mount Athos, a Greek site revered by Orthodox Christians. In May, he helped broker the end of a schism between the Russian church and a rival outfit set up by anti-communist exiles after the 1917 Revolution.

      “Orthodoxy has always had a special role in shaping our statehood, our culture, our morals,” Mr. Putin told bearded, black-robed priests at a meeting in the Kremlin before this month’s parliamentary election.

      Two-thirds of Russians now count themselves as Orthodox, roughly double the level when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. Opinion polls suggest most identify with the church out of nationalism. In a recent survey, only 4% said they look to Orthodoxy as a source of moral values.

      • To the first John who commented,
        I learn about a year’s worth of material every time I read one of your posts. I plan to get back to you on the earlier stuff you sent me. Summer is almost here.

        John B,
        I remember stuff like that in 2007. A lot of people gravitate towards Putin because of his opposition to Global Liberalism. I am beginning to see problems, though. THanks for posting that.

  3. John Bugay says:

    Thanks Jacob 🙂

  4. John* says:

    Bayou,

    Re your post of May 10, 2014 at 10:27 am.

    Do you now see why RA on OB doesn’t like me?

    ps: on a technical note, could you configure your server to give GMT (UTC) time? Where is your timezone relative to London?

    • It’s a shame he is blocking my more recent comments, since they are on Future of Protestantism and are relatively interesting.

      I am in Central Standard Time (US). I’ll try to fix it.

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